Winter Weather: A Barrier to Treatment
Question: Many hyperbaric oxygen therapy patients have had difficulty this winter getting to their scheduled treatments due to inclement weather. What recommendations do you have for helping keep patients' treatment schedules on track when the weather is a barrier to treatment?
Answer: While achieving optimal patient outcomes are critical and patient compliance/education/comprehension are extremely important, patient safety must be considered above all else.
Transportation and psychosocial aspects have to be addressed for patients in times of inclement weather. Whether it’s a tropical storm, a hurricane or a blizzard, more senior patients are often less able to handle challenging road conditions and asking them to so might be irresponsible. In an attempt to please the caregiver, the patient might unknowingly put themselves in danger so the caregiver needs to exercise caution in ‘forcing’ the situation.
If the individual is using public transportation, those services might be halted days before and after a weather event potentially impacting the patient’s care and condition in a negative manner and so proper planning by the departments’ staff is invaluable. For example, if a severe weather event is projected a week in advance the caregiver(s) should consider working with the patient’s physicians, DME providers and the patient’s family to make sure the patient has access to medications, supplies, water and food in quantities enough to last through the weather event and any recovery period that might or not be anticipated.
Unfortunately, there are going to be times when department managers will not make their budgets due to adverse events impacting patient care such as severe weather. When operations have been impacted by major hurricanes, numerous blizzards and ice storms, remember that it is just part of life and the key is to make sure that we get our patients back in as quickly as safety considerations allow so we can get then back on the right healing track.